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VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France (Reuters) - At least 40 French police were hurt late on Monday in running battles with scores of rioters in a suburb north of Paris where two youths died after a crash involving a police car.
During a second night of disturbances in Villiers-le-Bel and nearby areas, a local government official said one policeman was shot in the shoulder by some kind of firearm but was only slightly wounded.
A garbage truck and a police vehicle were among at least 36 vehicles torched late at night in the Val d'Oise area that includes Villiers and nearby districts also hit by the unrest, police and local officials said.
A Reuters witness said police were pelted with stones, petrol bombs and large firecrackers that exploded over their heads during hours of cat-and-mouse skirmishes with rioters.
Police replied with tear gas, rubber bullets and paint guns designed to identify troublemakers. Spent cartridges and rocks thrown by rioters littered the streets.
Injured officers were given treatment in a local fire station used by police as a base. One, his face bloodied, had his arm in a sling. Officials said 40 officers were slightly hurt, though three officers needed hospital treatment.
Local mayor Didier Vaillant, who had earlier called for calm, said airguns had been fired at police. "It looks like it's going to be a long night," he said.
The violence revived memories of the 2005 riots in France's poor, often ethnically diverse, housing estates.
In that unrest thousands of cars were torched after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted when they climbed into a power sub-station while apparently fleeing police.
Extra police had been drafted into Villiers-le-Bel on Monday in case of a repeat of disturbances on Sunday, sparked by the deaths of two youths whose moped collided with a police car.
Officials said 28 cars and five buildings were set ablaze, including a police station, in violence that injured 26 police and fire officers. Nine people were arrested on Sunday.
President Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister during the 2005 riots, when he took a tough line with the rioters which critics said helped stoke the violence.
On Monday, the head of state called for calm.
"I call on everyone to calm down and let the justice system decide who was responsible," Sarkozy told reporters during an official visit to Beijing.
Police have launched an investigation into Sunday's accident, which involved a police car and a moped driven by youths aged 15 and 16. Police say the moped was stolen and the teenagers ignored traffic regulations.
The investigation will focus on whether the two officers helped the dying youths. Relatives and locals complained the police fled the scene after the incident.
Local public prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry told LCI television the crash investigator's preliminary findings showed the youngsters had turned into the path of the police vehicle.
"The mini-moto was in third gear, which means it was going at top speed," she said. "That's what the expert report says, which confirms the statement by the driver of the police vehicle as well as that of two witnesses."
The officers had immediately called the emergency services. Tapes of the calls and subsequent radio traffic would be studied to see if police followed the correct procedures, she said.
Local inhabitants of the Villiers-le-Bel estate contested that version of events.
"That they say it was an accident, when they ran away, -- ran away, I say -- that's unacceptable for those who represent the law," Slimane Erraji, uncle of one of the dead, told LCI.
Additional reporting by Laurent Hamaide in Paris and Emmanuel Jarry in Beijing; Writing by Jon Boyle; Editing by Richard Balmforth